The Recovery of Healthcare: A case study of Javanese medical practices and related discussions about pluralism in healthcare

  • Nicole Weydmann Institute of Oriental and Asian Studies, Department of South-East Asian Studies, University of Bonn, Germany.


The use of 'traditional' medicine is a common phenomenon throughout Indonesia. In today’s Indonesian healthcare system 'traditional' and complementary medicine coexist with globalized biomedicine and even urban, educated households are still more likely to use 'traditional' than biomedical healthcare. This paper explores the fundamental differences between Western and Javanese understandings of health, illness and healing. It highlights first the Javanese relational perspective on healing, which involves resonance with the surrounding whole. It contrasts this with the entanglement of biomedical knowledge and economic interests, which is identified as a major problem of governmental healthcare services, as it enables overshadowing the medical objective of helping health-seeking persons with the objective of generating profit. Relationships with biomedical experts are described as shaped by monetary considerations, while rejecting non-biomedical treatment methods is suspected of being a way of protecting the interests of biomedical businesses. Based on these categorical and structural barriers between different medical traditions, the nationally structured and formally recognized system of healthcare is contrasted with a common informal, socially and culturally rooted way of navigating healing. Therefore, against the formal background of these conceptual differences, the paper highlights health seekers’ sensual experiences, embodied realities, and their common routines of tinkering and combining healthcare practices between conceptual differences. This provides glimpses into everyday informal cooperation between distinct medical traditions, which easily bridge categorical, structural and economic barriers. 

Key words: Healthcare Bricolage; Indonesia; Jamu Medicine; Javanese Tradition Medical Degrowth; Medical Pluralism; Primary Healthcare; Traditional Knowledge; Traditional Medicine.



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